The last Bible story in the Winter quarter of The Gospel Project for Kids is the story of Balaam, from Numbers 22:1–24:25. It’s a fun story for kids; what child doesn’t love a talking donkey? (Remember to emphasize that this is a true story—it really happened!) Balaam was a pagan prophet called on by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the Israelites. People believed that if Balaam cursed someone, it would be so. If he blessed someone, it would be so. Balak was afraid the Israelites would take over Moab, so he asked Balaam to curse the Israelites.
God warned Balaam not to curse the Israelites because He had blessed them. As Balaam traveled to speak to Balak, God sent the Angel of the Lord to enforce Balaam’s obedience. At first, Balaam did not see the Angel, but his donkey did. The donkey spoke. Then God opened Balaam’s eyes to see the Angel, and Balaam vowed to only speak the words God gave him.
The four messages Balaam spoke before Balak insisted that God would bless the Israelites. As you can imagine, this made Balak angry! He wanted the Israelites to be cursed, not blessed! In his fourth message, Balaam proclaimed these words:
I see him, but not now;
I perceive him, but not near.
A star will come from Jacob,
and a scepter will arise from Israel.
He will smash the forehead of Moab
and strike down all the Shethites.
Numbers 24:17 (HCSB)
What on earth was Balaam talking about? It can be tempting to quickly move past the oracles of prophets, to not think too much about them. But verses 17-19 are very significant. Today we’ll focus on verse 17, but take time to study the entire passage for yourself.
I see him, but not now; I perceive him, but not near.
Balaam prophesied about someone who wasn’t with the Israelites at that moment, and He wasn’t coming soon. Yet everyone—from pagan prophet to skeptic to believer—will one day see Him for who He is and bow before Him. (See Phil. 2:9-11.)
A star will come from Jacob.
The star has long been a symbol of power. Balaam hinted at a coming ruler. And from where? From Jacob. (See Luke 1:32-33.)
And a scepter will arise from Israel.
The scepter speaks to the ruling power of the coming Messiah. Read Isaiah 9:6; Daniel 7:13-14; and Revelation 11:15. These verses reveal the authority of Christ who will reign forever and ever: the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace.
Each Bible story for kids ends with a short paragraph called the Christ Connection. It is designed to help teachers show kids how a story connects to Christ. Explain to kids that God told Balaam what to say, and Balaam spoke about Jesus’ birth hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Balaam’s words were a hint—a clue—of something very big that would happen. When Jesus was born, wise men followed a star to His birthplace, and they worshiped Him as King. (Matt. 2:2)
When teaching kids the story of Balaam, help them understand that this isn’t just a random story in the Bible. It’s a small piece of a much greater picture—a picture that reveals Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior. The Old Testament points forward to Him; this is a God-glorifying testimony that Jesus wasn’t an afterthought or a Plan B. He was the plan, God’s merciful plan to send His Son and set sinners free.